Senate bill seeks to end ‘wrongful birth’ suits
By Richard Lee
Texas Senate News
TEXANS WILL no longer be allowed to sue doctors for “wrongful birth” if a bill approved unanimously by the senate’s state affairs committee becomes law.
“Wrongful birth” is a cause of action based on an accusation that a doctor withheld, either willfully or through negligence, key information from parents who otherwise might have decided to terminate a pregnancy. It allows the parents to seek damages for the high cost of raising a child born with disabilities.
Senator Brandon Creighton introduced the bill maintaining that such suits send a message that some people are not worthy of being born.
During Monday’s committee hearing, he said: “There are no wrongful births. Children born with disabilities ought to have the same rights as any able person. Their lives are just as valuable as any.”
Creighton, left, whose district includes Bolivar peninsula, added that the fear of liability might lead some doctors to recommend abortion to avoid being sued.
Texas was the first state in the nation to develop this standard, based on a 1975 case before the state’s supreme court.
In that case, a woman who had contracted rubella during pregnancy claimed she had not been properly diagnosed by her doctor or adequately warned about the possible fetal complications of the disease.
Her baby was born with severe complications requiring years of expensive surgeries and treatments and the parents sued saying that, had they known the possible complications before-hand, they would have opted for termination.
Opponents of the bill testified that eliminating the cause of action might lead to doctors opposed to abortions withholding knowledge of a fetal abnormality to prevent parents from opting for termination but Creighton said that existing malpractice laws are adequate.
He said: “We want to make it very clear that we are not allowing doctors to choose what information to give their patients based on their personal beliefs.
“This can be ensured by other means rather than this particular cause of action.”
The measure is now heading to the full senate for consideration.